Professor, Department of English Literature
Co-Director, Asian American Studies
On leave 2023-2024
Bakirathi Mani is Professor in the Department of English Literature, and previously the founding Co-Director of Tri-College Asian American Studies. A scholar of Asian American Studies, Postcolonial Studies, and Transnational Feminist/Queer Studies, she has taught at Swarthmore since 2002. Mani is also a curator of South Asian diasporic visual cultures, and regularly collaborates and consults with with artists and non-profit arts organizations in the U.S. and South Asia.
Her most recent book, Unseeing Empire: Photography, Representation, South Asian America (Duke University Press, 2020) earned an Honorable Mention Book Award from the Association of Asian American Studies in 2022. Unseeing Empire considers how empire continues to haunt contemporary photographic representations of South Asians in America, shaping both the form of racial representation as well as how diasporic viewers claim and identify with these images. Weaving ethnographic work at museums and galleries across North America and in South Asia together with her own experience as a curator, Mani examines the limits of visibility and visuality for Asian American representation. Her first book, Aspiring to Home: South Asians in America (Stanford University Press, 2012), establishes the spatial terrain of South Asian America in relation to narratives of neoliberal multiculturalism in the United States and regimes of postcolonial nationhood in South Asia. Working across ethnographic, literary, historical and visual archives of South Asians in diaspora, Mani's essays have been published in American Quarterly, Social Text, The Journal of Asian American Studies, Diaspora, Positions, and Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas, among other venues.
Born in Bombay (now Mumbai), raised in Tokyo, and educated in Japan, the U.S. and in India, Bakirathi Mani earned her Ph.D. in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford University, her M.A. in Modern Indian History from Jawaharlal Nehru University, and her B.S.F.S. in Non-Western History and Diplomacy from Georgetown University. At Swarthmore, Mani teaches a wide range of classes in Asian American Studies (Asian American Literature, South Asians in America, In/Visible: Asian American Cultural Critique); in Postcolonial Studies (Nation and Migration); and interdisciplinary and honors courses in feminist and queer studies (What is Cultural Studies?, Theories of Globalization).
In Conversation: "Unseeing Empire" with Bakirathi Mani and Patricia White
Check out our newest “In Conversation” video featuring Bakirathi Mani, author of the new book Unseeing Empire: Photography, Representation, South Asian America, and Patricia White, editor of the Camera Obscura journal and book series, discussing what it means for South Asian Americans to identify with visual representations of themselves and the entanglements of photography with longer histories of empire.
Book Talk: Bakirathi Mani and Andy Liu in Conversation
Bakirathi Mani and Andy Liu talk Asian American Representation and Representational Colonialism